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Reviewed by JB McPherson for Readers' Favorite
Confessions of a Mad Inventor by Robert Gross is appropriately subtitled Surviving Failed Inventions. If Tom Sawyer had grown up to be an aerospace engineer, this is the kind of story he would have written. The marvelous inventiveness of "Little Robert's" youth is only surpassed by the wacky outcomes that always defy his expectations. While he has visions of fame and glory, his inventions always seem to bring him back to earth with a bump. Read about the motorized wheelbarrow that cured old man Thompson of drink, or the deep pond diving test where "nothing could go wrong." The stories are told in memoir style (without chronology), which is a style more appropriate for adults. Stories of Little Robert are interspersed with other family stories, like the time his grandparents saw a UFO and other interesting narratives from his career. The book does not contain offensive material, unless you count frogonauts who make the ultimate sacrifice for science, and a couple of elaborate joke stories that involve cannibals drinking blood.
Confessions of a Mad Inventor by Robert Gross also contains a few poignant stories from the author's service in Vietnam. My favorite stories, though, are the Little Robert stories. As a mother of lots of boys, I commiserate with his mother. From using electricity to raise worms from the ground to inventing a harness for riding the double-wheeled unicycle from the clothesline (yikes!), it's a miracle Little Robert survived to adulthood. Reading this book is like listening to an old timer telling his best jokes and stories--an endearing book for those who enjoy some light reading.